2014 Acura RLX Unveiled at the LA Auto Show

Posted by Stephen On Friday, November 30th, 2012

As you may or may not already know, today is day two of the 2012 LA Auto Show. While there are plenty of soon-to-be best-selling automobiles to be scoped out, today I wanted to focus on something a little bit more flashy (or not, I’ll let you be the judge) – the 2014 Acura RLX luxury sedan.

While Honda is an extremely strong Japanese car manufacturer in and of itself, its premium brand, Acura, consistently finds itself relatively underrated among luxury brands. Even with improved sales this year, Acura is struggling to hit their growth targets. And the problem is not that they are perceived as overpriced or particularly lacking in class, it’s that between Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW, there is some very stiff competition. Acura has traditionally been able to bridge this gap with a combination of superior driving dynamics and that unbeatable Honda reliability, but the 2014 Acura RLX is intended to do something a little more.

Acura RLX

A Midsized Sedan With a Full-Sized Interior

The ILX fell short of Acura’s sales projections this year while the RDX crossover met unexpected demand, so it makes sense that Acura’s focus at the LA Auto Show would be on a new flagship luxury sedan. After all, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

The new 2014 Acura RLX is intended to mash together the best attributes of the its near-full-size predecessor, the Acura RL, and the mid-size TL luxury sedan. The RLX is 196.1 inches long, offering a significant “three inches more rear legroom than competing models, including the BMW 535i, Lexus GS350 and Audi A6”. It’s also 2 inches wider than its predecessor, which does have a noticeable effect on the amount of elbow room in both the front and rear seats of the car.

Even though the new Acura RLX is slightly bigger than the old Acura RL, it doesn’t feel that way from behind the wheel. Why? A plethora of new features – including Precision All-Wheel Steer and a souped up Agile Handling Assist braking system – allow this midsize sedan to reach new levels of “enhanced vehicle stability, maneuverability, and control”.

Give it To Me Straight – What’s the Downside?

The only real knocks – and they are real knocks – against the new Acura RLX are its fairly generic engine and its Accord-like appearance. The car certainly drives well, but with a 3.5L V6 engine with ‘only’ 310 horsepower, it’s not exactly making waves in the speed/acceleration department. Furthermore, the exterior and especially the interior seem very reminiscent of the Honda Accord. Don’t get me wrong – the Accord is certainly a great car, but it’s not what a luxury car should remind you of. If you get a premium brand charging premium prices, the last thing you want is for your neighbor to glance across from his driveway and accuse you of having a “humble” Accord.

Fortunately, Acura has plans to introduce an improved 370hp version with Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive sometime in 2013. This enhancement will link an electric engine to each of the rear wheels for further improved handling. That should be a bit more spicy, but for now buyers will have to settle with a spacious interior and supreme drivability being the primary perk of the new RLX.

All in all, it’s possible that the 2014 Acura RLX will be the huge success Acura’s been waiting for, but it seems more likely that the Japanese luxury manufacturer would have been better off waiting for the superior engine to be included in the initial production. Right now the RLX just seems… bland. Regardless of this writer’s opinion, the RLX will go on sale in the United States early in 2013, and we will find out for sure whether or not this is the breakthrough that Acura has been waiting for.

The question for Acura’s long-term viability is this: Does Honda really get it? Do they understand that what the customer in this segment wants is not a more efficient version of a lesser vehicle? They want luxury and power for sure, but what will really tick their boxes is that sense of exclusivity and the “glow” of association with a universally recognized top-flight brand. BMW knows this. Jaguar knows this. Lexus seems to be figuring this out. But Honda? Well, if the RLX is anything to go by, you really have to wonder.

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